With its roots fixed deeply in highly competitive powerboat racing, the soon-to-be-launched H55 from Hunton Yachts promises to deliver exciting performance as well as being a luxurious personal statement of ownership.
Long the proving grounds for innovative engineering and building techniques, offshore powerboat racing has tested both the endurance and fortitude of builders, designers, engineers, fabricators, drivers, and machines. Taking the lessons learned from these grueling challenges, the winners are the recreational mariners whose innovative boats are the recipients of the results of these tests of technology.
With its beginnings as an officially sanctioned sport in 1904, and organized by the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland and the Marine Motor Association, the fledgling idea of competitive powerboat racing began in the often-challenging seas surrounding the southeastern coast of England and that of the waters off of Calais, France. Here in the States, the APBA (American Powerboat Association) would hold its first competition in 1911 in California.
Over the years, and especially in the post WWII era, as both interest in offshore racing increased along with technological advances in both machinery and boat building techniques, materials, and designs, it would be a handful of maverick, envelope-pushing visionaries such as Jim Wynne (deep-V hull and I/O innovations), Don Aronow (Cigarette and other go-fast racing boats), and Dick Bertram (multi-world champion boat racer; won the 1960 Miami-to-Nassau aboard Lucky Moppie), among others, who would set the bar for many to follow. And follow they would.
It would also be during that celebrated 1960 Miami-to-Nassau race that British participant Max Aitken began to formulate a plan for a similar competition to take place on England’s southern coast. So was born the prestigious Cowes-Torquay-Cowes Powerboat Race that since its inception in 1961 has become one of the world’s premier events in offshore racing and a showcase for emerging boat designs and technology.
And in 1975, a young contender by the name of Jeff Hunton would participate in the first of 11 Cowes competitions for the distinguished Beaverbrook Trophy, and go on to win six subsequent British Offshore Powerboat Championships as well. In fact, his 23-foot Gazelle, Hunton’s very first production boat, won the Cruiser Class-A competition in the 1980 British Offshore. These successes would allow the germ of an idea, that being to design and build a series of high-performance powerboats with luxurious accommodations, to take root and become a reality.
Since 1979, Hunton Yachts has launched a series of impressive high-end boats with the kind of styling and features rarely seen in the private sector of boat ownership. “Our efforts are to bring an already superior product, with its high level of excellent British boat building methods, to the global market,” said Fiona Pool, CEO of Hunton Yachts.
Pool, with a career in investment banking and a keen eye for emerging opportunities, was asked by a group of investors to join in the marketing efforts as well as running the company. In addition to its British-based undertaking, Hunton Yachts has also opened Hunton LLC here in the States, and in particular Florida, and are looking towards dealerships in Singapore and the South of France. Along with all this activity, Pool and her company are launching a new line of boats including the H45 with an aft cabin and more interior volume that her predecessor, a 37 Sport with outboards, and a pair of RIBS, at 8- and 10-meter lengths, good for superyacht tenders or day boats. And of course, there will be the flagship of the line, the H55.
With the kind of profile making it, at its core, a family performance cruising boat, the H55 will be all that and a lot more. To begin with, Pool’s team of designers, engineers, craftspeople, and finishers are making sure the upcoming debut of this highly anticipated project would be the hallmark of the line and the setting of a high bar in this particular sector.
It’s clear to see this boat has a special appeal to those of not only discerning taste but who also wish to experience the excitement of her performance for it is the kind rooted deeply in the DNA of Hunton’s racing heritage. For example, if I had the opportunity to have access to one in South Florida during the winter months, it would be over to the Bahamas, the Abacos, or down to the Keys and the Gulf Coast. And given I spend my summers up in the northeast, I’d pay a visit to Cape Cod, set aside time with friends in the Hamptons, explore all that Maine has to offer, especially in my never-ending search for the ultimate lobster roll and wild blueberry pie, or take a trip to Block Island, The Vineyard, or Nantucket for example. She is the kind of manageable boat for the family to run, and stay on, by themselves.
As seen here in this preliminary rendering, the aft end is arranged not only for optimum entertaining and conversation while at the dock or a secluded anchorage but for enjoying the sea- and landscape vistas during cruising. Note in particular the elegance of the teak decks, trim, and special positioning of the seating areas.
H55 will be available in two configurations, an open express model as well as one with a hardtop. Either way, one look at her sharp and distinctive good looks, low profile, and outstanding features, one would be hard-pressed not to desire to be at the wheel…and not just for a test drive.
The well-positioned helm allows for excellent views into the seaway and provides all instruments, switches, and navigational equipment to be within easy reach especially while underway. Also, the port side co-pilot’s double seat puts the driver and guests on the same level. As a seasoned boat driver, I can tell you this is all quite important to the overall experience of enjoyment and the thrill of being at the helm of such a boat.
Driven by a pair of 1000-hp, MAN 8V diesel inboards, expected top speed is in the 55 knots range with an easy 40 knot cruise. She will also feature key fob activation, remote diagnostics and monitoring, a gyro stabilizer, autopilot, bow and stern cameras, auto trim drives and trim tabs, remote docking, electric helm seats, custom-made tender, a panoramic hardtop with tinted glass and opening sunroof, among other notable luxuries. “All this technology makes the H55 incredibly user-friendly,” Pool says. While her sleek exterior, with comfortable seating areas, aft sunpad, and well-planned and laid out starboard helm, invites one to dream of the exciting performance she will deliver, her interior offers elegant surroundings and features two cabins, one being guest quarters, and the other a master stateroom complete with ensuite head. There is a salon, galley, and plenty of storage areas for those extended, and expected, times away from your home dock.
While her sleek exterior, with comfortable seating areas, aft sunpad, and well-planned and laid out starboard helm, invites one to dream of the exciting performance she will deliver, her interior offers elegant surroundings and features two cabins, one being guest quarters, and the other a master stateroom complete with ensuite head. There is a salon, galley, and plenty of storage areas for those extended, and expected, times away from your home dock.
On the construction side, she will be built with an epoxy composite utilizing the best materials available. The primary technique will be resin infusion for a precise glass to resin ratio. The coring will be engineered foam core (core-cell) along with various combinations of biaxial, quadriaxial, and unidirectional E-glass for a strong, lighter, longer lasting boat. The resin-infused build will also feature Kevlar and carbon fiber for extra reinforcement and add strength while keeping the all-important weight considerations in proportion to the materials used.
Interior choice as far as finishes with two or three different kinds of looks; sporty or elegant, with different fabrics and décor, as well as a possible limited edition, are in the plans.
As seen here in these renderings, you can see how elegant the interior of the H55 will be. To this nautical scribe’s eye, this is a good as it gets. Maximum use of available space with the kind of attention to detail and superior fit and finish, the kind found on much larger yachts, is apparent and will be available to her owners.
“In my opinion, what sets us apart from our competition is our ability to combine superyacht comfort and fit and finish in a boat of this size,” Pool said. “And of course, we also have the performance aspect from all that we have learned over the years of competitive racing, allowing us to design and build better and better hulls.”
In combination with providing all the exciting and innovative European design features with the high-tech bells and whistles the American market desires, the H55 is sure to make its mark in a big way. We can’t wait for our exclusive opportunity to sea trial and report back on our findings. As with this preview, we are sure it’s going to be something really special.